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TRANSLATION OF IDIOMATIC/PHRASEOLOGICAL AND STABLE EXPRESSIONS




Idiomatic or phraseological expressions are structurally, lexically and semantically fixed phrases or sentences having mostly the meaning, which is not made up by the sum of meanings of their component parts1. An indispensable feature of idiomatic (phraseological) expressions is their figurative, i.e., metaphorical nature and usage. It is this nature that makes them distinguishable from structurally identical free combinations of words Cf.: red tape (free word-comb.) - red tape (idiom) (); the tables are/were fumed (free word-comb.) / - the tables are turned (idiom) ; /; play with fire (free word-comb.) - (idiom).

On rare occasions the lexical meaning of idiomatically bound expressions can coincide with their direct, i.e., not transferred meaning, which facilitates their understanding as in the examples like: to make way ; to die a dog's death ; to receive a hero's welcome ; wait a minute/a mo-ment / ; to tell (you) the truth / ; to dust one's coat/jacket / - (idiom).

Some proper names can also be endowed with figurative meaning and possess the necessary expressiveness which are the distinguishing features of idioms2: Croesus, Tommy (Tommy Atkins), Yankee, Mrs. Grundy, Jack Ketch, etc. These proper names have acquired their constant meaning and can not be confused with usual (common) proper names of people. As a result their transferred meaning is conveyed in a descriptive way. So Mrs. Grundy means , , ; JackKetchnar, Croesus , ; Tommy Atkins ; Yankee (in Europe) /, etc.

Idiomatic/phraseological expressions should not be mixed up with different fixed/set prepositional, adjectival, verbal and adverbial

1 See: .. . - .: .
, 1972. Martin H. Manser. A Dictionary of Contemporary Idioms. - Lon
don, Pan Books Ltd., 1983.

2 See: Collins V.N. A Book of English Idioms. - .: , 1950. -
. .. . - : . ., 1969.


phrases the meaning of which is not an actual sum of meanings made up by their constituent parts either: by George, by and by, for all of, for the sake of, cut short, make believe; or compounds like: topsyturvy, higledy-piggledy; coordinate combinations like: high and dry, cut and run, touch and go; Tom, Dick and Harry, etc. These and a lot of other stable expressions can very often be treated as standardized collocations. Their meaning can be rendered in a descriptive way too, like that of genuine idiomatic expressions: fifty-fifty ; ; . , ; cut short , / (), ().



Such and the like stable expressions, like most of other standardized collocations, have usually a transparent meaning and are easier to translate than regular idioms (the so-called phraseological fusions). Meanwhile it is next to impossible to guess, for example, the meaning of the English idiom Hobson's // from the seemingly transparent meanings of its componental parts. Only a philological inquiry helps establish the meaning of the name and the real sense of the idiom -no choice whatsoever, acceptance of what is offered .

Similarly treated must also be many other English and Ukrainian picturesque idioms, proverbs and sayings, which have national literary images and reflect the traditions, customs, the way of conduct or the mode of life of a nation. Their meaning, due to absence of similar idioms in the target language, can be rendered descriptively, i.e. through a regular explication. The latter, depending on the semantic structure of the source language idiom, may be sometimes achieved in the target language with the help of a single word. Cf.: English:an odd/queer fish ; Canterbury tale , ; blue bonnet ( ) ; crammed; to be chilled. Most often, however, the meaning of this kind of idioms is conveyed with the help of free word-combinations: to dine with Duke Humphrey ( ); to cut off with a shilling . Similarly in Ukrainian: to go quickly (or very quickly) on one's feet; ' to have great experience in something; / ' to run away quickly/hurriedly.



It goes without saying that none of the phraseologisms above can be translated word-for-word since their constituent images would lose their connotative, i.e., metaphorical meaning in the target language. So, or * could be understood by the Ukrainian language speakers in their lit-


 




eral meaning. The same can be said about our idiom , i.e., *with one's legs on the shoulders which would never be understood, when translated literally, by the English language native speakers. Therefore, the componental images, when mechanically transplanted to the target language, may often bring about a complete destruction of the idiomatic expression.

The choice of the way of translation of this kind of idioms may be predetermined by the source language context or by the existence/absence of contextual equivalents for the idiomatic/stable expression in the target language. Thus, in the examples below units of this kind can be translated into Ukrainian either with the help of a single word or with the help of a standardized phraseological expression: to give a start ; to give heart to one , ; the weaker vessel (facet) ( ; ; ), me Holy /.

Not infrequently the meaning of a standardized collocation (after Acad. V.V.Vinigradov) like that of a regular idiom may have synonymous single word equivalents in the target language. The choice of the equivalent is predetermined then by the meaning of the standardized collocation/phraseologism and by the style of the sentence where it is used: to make sure (), ; to make comfort ; to take place ; ; the world and his w/feyci.

Similarly treated are also traditional combinations which have in the target language several stylistically neutral free equivalents (words or word-combinations) as: to run a risk , , to apply the screw ( ); to drop like a hot potato , , .

Faithful translating of a large number of picturesque idiomatic/ phraseological expressions, on the other hand, can be achieved only by a thorough selection of variants having in the target language a similar to the original lexical meaning, and also their picturesqueness and expressiveness. This similarity can be based on common in the source language and in the target language componental images as well as on the structural form of them. As a result, the meaning of such idioms is mostly guessed by the students, which generally facilitates their translation.

A few examples will suffice to prove it. English:a grass widow (widower) ' (); not to see a step beyond one's


nose ; measure twice and cut once , ; nor for love or money / ; Ukrainian: / , , (not to know chalk from cheese); , all cats are grey in the dark, , , , ( ) like father, like son; not a cat's/dog's chance /, () (he) has not all his buttons, etc.

It often happens that the target language has more than one semantically similar/analogous phraseological expression for one in the source language. The selection of the most fitting variant for the passage under translation should be based then not only on the semantic proximity of the idioms/phraseologisms but also on the similarity in their picturesqueness, expressiveness and possibly in their basic images. The bulk of this kind of phraseological expressions belong to the so-called phraseological unities. (Vinogradov). Here are some Ukrainian variants of the kind of English phraselogisms: either win the saddle or loose the horse , ; , ; many hands make work light , ; ; ; - ; a man can die but once ; , ; ; , ; haste makes waste/the more haste, the less speed - , - , - .

A number of phraseological units, due to their common source of origin, are characterized in English and Ukrainian by partial or complete identity of their syntactic structure, their componental images, picturesqueness and expressiveness (and consequently of their meaning). Such kind of idioms often preserve a similar or even identical word order in the source language and in the target language. Hence, they are understood and translated by our students without difficulties: to cast pearls before swine ; to be born under a lucky star ; to cherish/warm a viper in one's bosom ; to be/ fall between Scilla and Charybdis / .

One of the peculiar features of this type of idiomatic expressions is their international nature. Only few of them have phraseological synonyms of national flavour, being thus restricted to correspond-


 




ing speech styles, whereas international idioms predominantly belong
to the domain of higher stylistic level:
Genuine Internationalisms National/Colloquial Variants

The apple of discord The bone of contention. The

, bone of discord

Strike the iron while it is hot make hay while the sun shines

, , ,

neither fish nor flesh ,

' ; ,

to cross the Styx to turn one's toes up

; ' /

National/colloquial variants of international idiomatic substitutes, therefore, always differ considerably by their picturesqueness, expressiveness and their lexical meaning. They are only semantically analogous to genuine equivalents, which may sometimes lack absolute identity in the source language and in the target language (to cross the Styx ; to drop from the clouds ; neither fish nor flesh ).

As can be seen, some international idiomatic expressions slightly differ in English and Ukrainian either in their structural form and lexical/idiomatic meaning or in the images making up the idioms. Thus, the idiomatic expression to fish in troubled waters has in English the plural of waters whereas in its Ukrainian equivalent has a singular form, moreover, the component to fish is detalized and extended to () ; the Society of Jesus is (but not the Order of Jesus) and the Babel of tongues is and not * .

Slight divergences are also observed in several other English and Ukrainian international equivalents: the game is (not) worth the candle (singular) (plural). The idiom a sound mind in a sound body, on the other hand, has a reverse position of its component parts: .

Therefore, each of the above-given idiomatic expressions has either a different form of a component/image, a different word order or a slightly different lexical meaning of a componental part. And yet despite the pointed out divergences such and the like idiomatic expressions/phraseological units do not cease to be absolute equivalents in either of the two languages.


Apart from the kinds of idiomatic expressions singled out on the foregoing pages, there exists in each language a specific national layer of idiomatic/phraseological expressions comprising also proverbs and sayings, which are formed on the basis of componental images pertaining solely to a concrete national language. Such idioms are first of all distinguished by their picturesqueness, their expressiveness and lexical meaning of their own. Due to their national particularity, these idioms/phraseologisms can not and do not have traditionally established literary variants in the target language. As a result, their structural form and wording in different translations may often lack absolute identity. In their rough/interlinear or word-for-word variants they mostly lose their aphoristic/idiomatic nature and thus are often subject to literary perfection: the moon is not seen when the sun shines , / , ; it is a great victory that comes without blood , or , .

Similarly translated are some Ukrainian national phraseologisms into English: , what is spoiled by one fool can not be mended by ten wisemen; - , - small children - smaller troubles, grown-up children - grave troubles.

Isomorphic is also the existence in both the languages of a number of idiomatic expressions which are of regular sentence-type structure containing some common componental parts. Hence, their lexical meaning, nothing to say about their componental images, their picturesqueness and their expressiveness are identical as well. This is predetermined by their common source of origin in English and in Ukrainian: if you run after two hares, you will catch neither , ; a drowning man will catch (snatch) at a straw ( , ); Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune , ( , ); he who spares the rod spoils the child 볺 , .

As can be noticed from these examples, some English and Ukrainian idiomatic expressions are far from uniform lexically, structurally, and by their componental images, picturesqueness and expressiveness. They do not always spring from the same source of origin either. Because of this a faithful translation of phraseological/


 




idiomatic expressions depends upon some factors the main of which are as follows:

1) whether the idiomatic expression in the source language and in the target language is of the same/different source of origin;

2) whether the idiomatic expression has in the target language only one, more than one or all componental images in common;

3) whether the componental images, when translated, are perceived by the target language speakers;

4) whether the structural form of the idiomatic expressions can be retained in the target language without any transformations;

5) whether there exists an analogous/similar in sense idiomatic expression in the target language, etc.

All these and some other factors should not be neglected when translating idiomatic/phraseological expressions from and into English. In fact, here exists a regular interdependence between the lexical meaning, the origin, the picturesqueness and the expressiveness of idioms on the one hand and the method of their translating on the other.

Taking into account these and some other factors, the following ways of faithful rendering the idiomatic/phraselogical expressions are to be identified:


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